More than 1,200 firefighters, aided by water-dropping helicopters, battled a wind-driven wildfire raging out of control in Northern California on Monday, threatening homes and other structures as thick black smoke drifted across the San Francisco Bay Area.
The so-called County Fire, which broke out Saturday afternoon in rural Yolo County, west of Sacramento, has already blackened more than 80 square kilometres of grass, brush and dense scrub oak. It was only three per cent contained as of Monday afternoon.
Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the job of hand crews and bulldozer operators trying to cut containment lines was made more difficult by high winds, which were blowing embers and starting new spot fires.
Due to the erratic wind behaviour, it’s heading wherever it wants to head at the moment.-Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire protection
“Due to the erratic wind behaviour, it’s heading wherever it wants to head at the moment,” McLean said. About 116 structures faced an imminent threat as of Monday morning, he said.
“It’s our duty to save life and property,” he said.
Crews worked through the night to cut control lines around the blaze, which grew by one third overnight Sunday. Officials ordered about 300 people to leave their homes near Lake Berryessa in neighbouring Napa County as flames bore down.
The smoke reached some 120 km south to San Francisco, leaving films of ash on cars and windows. No casualties have been reported.
Wildfires have burned through nearly one million hectares in the United States this year as of June 29 — well above the average of about 809,000 hectares for the same calendar period over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Fires up across western U.S.
The agency forecast significantly above-normal large fires for July across the western U.S.
In Colorado, firefighters were hampered by adverse weather conditions to combat flames in six major wildfires that have charred more than 40,000 hectares across the state, said Larry Helmerick, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center.
“We’ve got hot, dry and windy conditions,” Helmerick said. “Large parts of the Rocky Mountain region are in a prolonged drought, and Colorado is especially hard hit.”
The largest blaze, the Spring Fire in southern Colorado, has burned nearly 23,000 hectares, destroyed an unknown number of structures, and has forced the hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes, fire officials said.
The fire, which was human caused, is just five per cent contained, according to InciWeb, a federal government wildfire website.
In Utah, Jason Curry of the Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands said fire has scorched about 27 square kilometres near Strawberry Reservoir. Duchesne County officials have issued evacuation orders for an unknown number of houses and cabins in the area.
Curry said officials couldn’t get a size update Monday afternoon due to the fire activity and smoke.
Curry said the blaze started Sunday and officials believe it was human-caused but are investigating.
He says the fire is expected to grow with hot and dry conditions.
Authorities have ordered residents to evacuate about 50 homes because of a wildfire north of Bend, Ore., in Warm Springs.
KTVZ-TV reports a smoldering fire near the former Warm Springs wood mill sparked a fire in high winds Monday afternoon that also shut down Highway 26 near the Deschutes River.
It wasn’t immediately known how much land had burned.
Warm Springs tribal assistant fire management officer William Wilson said the fire jumped the highway and was moving toward a neighborhood on the reservation where the evacuation notices were issued.
Other people in nearby homes have been told to be set to leave.